ISLAMABAD - Former president Asif Ali Zardari on Friday said that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan’s bid to change the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly would “remain a dream”.

Zardari, while speaking at a meeting of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) here said that Imran Khan first takes decisions on his own and then tries to implement them.

“There is no chance that he [Imran Khan] will be able to dislodge Khurshid Shah [as the opposition leader] through unnatural alliance [with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement],” a senior PPP leader who attended the meeting told The Nation, quoting Zardari.

This month, the PTI launched a bid to remove Khurshid Shah as the opposition leader in the National Assembly and get its own nominee elected for the slot.

The PTI made a loose alliance with the MQM to achieve this goal but several smaller opposition parties refused to support the move.

The MQM had agreed to support the PTI Vice-Chairman, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, as the next opposition leader .

The PTI later said that they had not yet nominated Qureshi.

The smaller parties including the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-i-Azam), the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) and the Awami National Party (ANP) maintained there was no reason to change the opposition leader .

Zardari, according to the PPP leader, asked the MQM if it was in the opposition or the government as there were confusing statements coming from the party.

The PTI aims to win the post as the opposition leader has an important role in appointment of the National Accountability Bureau chairman and a caretaker set-up to hold general elections – expected after mid-2018.

In the National Assembly, the PTI has 32 members and the MQM has 24 seats.

The PPP enjoys the support of 47 legislators of the party and also has the backing of some smaller groups.

Some lawmakers of the PTI and the MQM however, may not vote for the new opposition leader due to differences with the respective party leaderships.

There were reports that Maulana Fazlur Rehman-led Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) – a government ally – with 13 members can shift benches to save Khurshid Shah in case the PTI wins enough numbers.

Amid the rumours, the MQM legislator Ali Raza Abidi had tweeted that his party will “call off” support for the new opposition leader , if the JUI-F came to the PPP rescue.

Qamar Zaman Kaira, while speaking to journalists after the PPP meeting said that the opposition leader could not be changed on the desire of Imran Khan as there was a proper process to elect people for the post.

“If the PTI has enough votes, they can always change the opposition leader . They should show us the numbers. We cannot change the opposition leader because Imran Khan wants it,” he said.

Kaira, the PPP Central Punjab president, said that the PTI leads a government in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and has its opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly.

“There will be no big difference, if Imran Khan becomes the opposition leader [in the centre],” he added.

The PPP said that his party had devised a strategy to counter the PTI’s move against Khurshid Shah.

“We will consult other parties where necessary. We have not been part of any deals in the past and will not strike deals in the future,” he contended.

PPP Secretary-General Syed Nayyar Bokhari said that the meeting discussed the PTI’s bid to replace Khurshid Shah as the opposition leader .

“Now the ball is in the PTI’s court. They need to show us how many members are supporting their move. Those with us will always support us. They have to prove their strength,” he maintained.

PPP Information Secretary Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed said that until now the PTI had not been able to announce their nominee.

“We need to know who is challenging Khurshid Shah. For now, they are silent about their candidate,” he added.

The PPP leader said that the PTI should disclose the “angels” who would vote for them to elect their nominee for the opposition leader’s post.

Meanwhile, on Friday, a PPP statement said that meeting of fact finding committee into the outcome of the NA-120 by-election - formed by party chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari - was scheduled for October 3 in Lahore.

The committee includes Syed Nayyar Hussain Bokhari, Senator Farhatullah Babar and Maula Bakhsh Chandio.

“The meeting will be attended by presidents and provincial organisations of the party from Lahore, Faisalabad and Gujranwala divisions. Other people who have some knowledge regarding this election are also invited to attend the meeting,” said the statement.